[PS-3.25] Effects of Whole-word Frequency and Constituent Frequency in Reading German Compounds - A Developmental Study

Hasenäcker, J. & Schroeder, S.

Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Berlin

Models of morphological processing range in their assumptions concerning the decomposition of complex words from whole-word retrieval to obligatory decomposition. Hybrid accounts assume access via both whole-word and constituents. Under those accounts, it remains unsettled whether both constituents have the same relative contribution. Moreover, the relative impact of whole-word frequency is unsolved. Particularly for developing readers, the first constituent might have a privileged role due to left-to-right decoding strategies.

Adults and primary school children performed a lexical decision task in which the constituent frequencies of German compounds were manipulated in a 2x2-design (high/low-first/second), while whole-word frequency was continuously varied. Results suggest that for adults, higher whole-word frequency led to faster compound processing, irrespective of constituent frequency. For children, whole-word frequency only affected processing when the frequency of the first constituent was high, but not when it was low. This is compatible with full-form accounts for adults and hybrid models for children. The consequences for models of skilled reading will be discussed in the light of developmental processes.